ARoundWithRog - the hitch
While all of this wonderful, fun planning has been developing, a small concern has been festering; those golf clubs. How exactly am I going to carry them? Discussion with Mike Puluso at www.CycleCaddy.info, who appears to have solved the problem of carrying golf clubs, at least at some level, has shown that he is a kind and supportive chap who was willing to help by donating a Cyclecaddy, if it would be of assistance. Only two problems, it fits only certain styles of motorcycles and if you don't want a bag full of water, you will need to move out to California in order for it to be useful in the context I need. Wales, Ireland and Scotland particularly are not known for their desert climates, or England for that matter.
Having not learnt about bikes by stripping and rebuilding them like so many lifetime bikers, the language of those who have done so does leave something to be desired. Access and understanding I am talking about, not four letter obscenities you understand. What do I mean I hear you saying? When someone asks you something, you can find yourself not knowing the exact way to describe the problem from a committed biker's perspective - swing arms (is that an instruction or are you asking me whether the bike has a particular feature?), axle bolts (it has an axle and there are bolts in that general area - does that answer your question?), bore and tap (that's an odd combination that sounds like it has more to do with plumbing than with bikes), independent rear suspension, hard tail, exhaust pipe configuration, etc. Realising that my approach to biking was a thoroughly modern one (the deal is: I provide for the bike's regular service, I hit the starter button, it starts), I could see that conversations with some of these folk would present a communications challenge.
Before too long, we swopped pictures and things soon became slightly clearer - on the BMW 'the way the exhaust pipe is located, along with a lack of a rear frame in which we would normally 'bore and tap' the rear bolt adapter to fit the rear axle bolt means that this solution is unsuitable for this type of motorbike. In fairness, I probably only tuned in to the words 'unsuitable for this type of motorbike' but the rest were at least written - anyway, who cares, as it makes for good reading.
Or, on cruiser and custom style bikes; 'I will find out that size and let you know how fast I can have an adapter made'. Slightly clearer still meant a mud like clarity, but it was clear that Mike was making an offer to do something to help. Only problem was that it was not going to fit my BMW bike. Well, not a problem, as it would fit one of the few bikes that accommodated my very long (6'8") frame - a British bike that I would have purchased instead of the BMW if it had a more convincing touring set up - ie. my wife Ana said no, as she was uncomfortable after ten minutes sitting on the back. As, unlike our touring holiday, this was not an event that required me to carry a pillion passenger, it occured to me that as I was going to conduct a UK tour of UK golf clubs to benefit UKcharites, I felt it appropriate to ask a UK bike manufacturer to support the event by lending me a suitable bike for its duration.
The bike in question was the Triumph Rocket III, an enormous 2.3 litre custom cruiser, but a bike big enough and brash enough to carry me around on this challenge, while making a statement that would not be ignored by anyone seeing this oversized two wheeler. Unfortunately, despite having already set up the website and having quite a lot of support in place from the golf clubs, the response from Triumph's marketing department was a negative one, unless I could present them with a 'full media schedule'. They wanted me to have lined up local press and publicity for them all around the country in order to accede to my request at a point when their media schedule could not have been further from my plans at such an early stage. Let's face it, it was a perfectly reasonable request, but not one that I could consider as I had far too many other jobs to get done, in order to make this event happen. Perhaps a real missed opportunity for Triumph, but perhaps not too! Their hard nosed approach is probably appropriate for their business that may well receive far too many requests to 'borrow' their men's toys so that they need a mechanism to find out which will provide real publicity value.
So option two was then called into action. This is a hard plastic lockable airline style carry case, courtesy of partnergolf.com that sits vertically on a trailer hitch (this is American English for a tow bar assembly). I suspect it has been designed firstly for carrying golf clubs when travelling in sports cars or RVs, but have also developed a fitting for GT (Grand Touring) motorcycles. If you are looking, it is the product called Autolinx - the site has a link to a gallery of images, including one for motorcycles.
As an aside, RV stands for recreational vehicle. North Americans love camping, but don't often just take a tent. They would surely claim that 'RVs are the way to go'! Take a look at RVonline.com for an idea of what are thought of as RVs. The larger ones are full sized coaches that when fitted out more conventionally take 44 passengers and would require you to have a PSV (Public Service Vehicle) licence to drive! In fairness, an RV probably covers everything from a large 4x4 upwards. Judging by sites like RVonline, it is easy to see why America accounts for 25% of the current output of the world's greenhouse gases when only hosting 5% of its population. I digress and I should shut up, as I am going to travel more than 2500 miles on a motorcycle playing different golf courses, when I am sure it could be argued that I should do so around one course, in order to minimise the environmental impact. So I will. Shut up that is!
So having located a supplier of the said golf club carrier and having had one donated and sent to me, I then learnt that the 'cambus' electrics on my BMW would not allow for connecting external light boards without causing potential warning sign issues on my instrument cluster, so the 'hitch option' would be a troublesome one.
Here was the hitch - a bike that I had control of (i.e. owned) that was not suitable for a trailer hitch and therefore the way the product had been intended, or another solution that would work with a bike I didn't have, but where the solution itself wasn't ideal.
Perhaps it would come back to the 'scissor bag' that had not made production! Other ideas were played with, but could not reasonably be entertained, as racking the clubs along the length of the bike would not allow them to be secured onto it. This would be important as should a few light fingered folk happened to be lurking at a service station, while I needed to answer the call of nature and the golf clubs were to disappear, the challenge may be put into serious jeopardy.
It was at about this stage that I was alerted to the pro-golfer John Daly's custom made motorcycle (you can see images on metropolitanchoppers.com - this is a biking site, nothing saucy!) which summed up most of what I was trying to achieve, but without his budget at my disposal. Take a look, as this is a real work of bike art, while solving the problem I am trying to solve, but again just for desert climates!
So back to the carrying case. The BMW is designed as a go anywhere bike and has literally been ridden all over the world by its army of owners, either in its current, or one of its previous guises (R1150GS, R110GS, R100GS and its smaller cousin the R80GS), carrying all sorts of equipment. This design heritage has resulted in the rear seat being removable and creating a perfectly flat load area across the panniers and the bike's frame that supports the pillion seat. This is perfectly suitable for carrying weights far in excess of golf clubs, so seemed worth investigating.
A friend from my past work place, Eugene, a keen touring bike Scot, who is very knowledgeable about motorbikes put me onto this; he is a veteran of the BMW bikes I refer to above and also owns the same model I do. After a little planning session, we concluded that if the hitch option was not feasible ('cambus electrics' hadn't been mentioned by then), it was decided that probably, this would provide the safest answer. Safety should be the highest priority when riding a motorcycle, so thinking about what may happen in the event of an accident, forms part of the thought process. Unbelievably, with the panniers extended to their full width and with the Autolinx golf carrier laid across them, the overhang is only 8" or so each side.
My friends (I know they are my friends because I bought a motorcycle from them!) at the BMW garage in Oxford offered to assist. I had asked for specific help, to include this 'fixing the clubs on the bike' problem. They had come up trumps, having had between them some background and contacts in light engineering and plastics moulding businesses. Currently, they are working on making a cradle, into which the carrier will snugly fit. The carrier will then be bolted onto the back of the bike, allowing for securing straps and lockable chain to pass through and ensure that the clubs and carrier don't learn to walk!
My friends in Oxford had also been asked for a motorbike service just before the challenge in order to minimise the chance of any failure during my trip plus a new set of tyres. After having spent a few weeks looking into my various requests (including involving BMW GB Ltd to support publicity), I received a phone call confirming their progress. Matt, the After Sales Manager mentioned that he had also got me a new pair of boots. 'Fantastic Matt', I said, 'as I am getting near to needing some new boots, but how did you know. . . .and any progress on the tyres?' Side splitting laughter at the other end of the phone confirmed that I was missing something. 'A new pair of boots is biking speak for a new set of tyres for the bike'!
Early on in the planning stage, when I was using biker chat rooms to find out if anybody had experience of carrying golf clubs on a bike (no-one had), and I was getting bored with the 'tow a trailer' response, I came across a chap who advised me that I needed 'an outfit'. My mind worked overtime conjuring up colourful images of what sort of outfit would allow you to stick golf clubs in it to transport them while still rendering yourself able to ride. It was another of those terminology gaffes I am afraid - an outfit is a sidecar! The advice was that if you thought golf was a challenge that could keep you interested in trying to master it for the whole of your adult life, then cornering a motorcycle with an outfit bolted to it could provide the same opportunity for endless hours of fun! Give up golf and get an outfit - don't forget, you heard it here first!
Please visit www.ARoundWithRog.co.uk if you want to find out more about his charity challenge.
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